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The 20 Best Things to Cook with a Cast-Iron Skillet |

The 20 Best Things to Cook with a Cast-Iron Skillet

Cast-iron skillets suffer from an image problem. Because they are so adept at one thing — like, say, cooking steak — the creativity and vision to do other things are clouded.

Admittingly, this guide, which spans the best things to cook in your new (or old) cast-iron skillet, does include steak but not to the exclusion of all else. You’ll also find pies (maybe too many pies), Dutch babies, cornbread, tortillas and fancy-sounding French desserts.


Like with any recipe, approach these as starting points not scripture. Don’t like apple pies? Use pears. Think the ingredients on the pizza recipe are subpar? Cool, just don’t use them. Go wild, just know the cast-iron skillet hanging in your kitchen excels at far more than searing meat.

Thick Cut Steak

Photo: Serious Eats

Penned by the great J. Kenji López-Alt himself, this recipe is authoritative, concise and helpful. If you want even more details, check out the connected guide, and absolutely do not skip the comments section, where the author drops insight morsels in reply to dozens of reader questions.

Bacon

Photo: The Kitchn

There are only three things one needs to know about cooking bacon in a cast-iron skillet: start in a cold pan (the meat will seize and become needlessly tough otherwise), know when to pull it and understand that it’s good for the cookware itself. Bacon is often the food recommended to christen a new skillet because of its high-fat content and ability to get a good foundation of seasoning built up.

Cornbread

Photo: Garden And Gun

Use the recommended Anson Mills for a heightened cornbread if you want, but the real magic of this recipe from Garden Gun’s cookbook is the first two steps. Preheat the oven, put your fat-covered skillet in and only when the skillet is ripping hot do you dollop the batter in. This is the path to a crunchy crust and a fluffy, magnificent interior. Throw some butter on top when it’s done and you will have become an honorary Southerner.

Dutch Baby

Photo: The New York Times

Literally blend up all five ingredients (which you almost certainly have in your pantry and fridge right now) and throw the mixture in a skillet to bake. It’s a fluffy, simple treat for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner (if you’re into that). Bonus points for cooking some fresh fruit down in wine or simple syrup and slathering on the top.

Country Ham with Redeye Gravy

Photo: Epicurious

If there’s anywhere in the US that cast-iron cookware didn’t go out of style in the middle of the 20th century, it’s probably the South. And if the South is to be called great at anything, it’s turning cheap ingredients into worthy food, and that’s exactly what this recipe is all about. Making redeye gravy amounts to shallow frying pork (you could easily do this with bacon instead of country ham), dumping extra-bitter black coffee into a skillet full of the fat, tossing a bit of sugar in and thinning it out with water. The result is bold, rich, slightly sweet and unbelievably satisfying.

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Fried Eggs

Photo: The Kitchn

This person’s mom knows what’s up. Fried eggs are perfectly doable in a cast-iron skillet, and if you head to Youtube and search some variation of “fried egg cast iron” you’ll find a mountain of videos from the cast iron community showing off their pans. Why? Developing the level of seasoning to cleanly fry and flip an egg is something of a mark of pride for the cast iron enthused, which makes this a recipe best reserved for the brave or the experienced.

Cholocate Chip Cookie Cake

Photo: Bon Appetit

Baking doesn’t get as much airplay as well-seared meats (it doesn’t photograph as well), but it might be the cast-iron skillet’s greatest strength. Cookie cake is taken from a crumbly grocery store buy for a toddler’s birthday to a crispy, fatty, melty treat yourself dessert.

Pizza

Photo: Bon Appetit

Again, the secret to absurdly even and crispy crusts in the preheating of the pan before the application of the to-be crisped (pizza dough, in this case). This recipe is more of a guide than anything, meaning beyond the basic technique and timings of the dish, you get to pick the ingredients (hot tip: pancetta is an incredible pizza topper).

Shepherd’s Pie

Photo: Fine Cooking

Here’s a hot take for you: Shepherd’s pie is one of the Mount Rushmore recipes of fall cooking. That is to say, it belongs right up there with the greats — beef stew, chili, chicken pot pie and so on. The benefits of making it in a skillet as opposed to some chintzy Pyrex nonsense is fairly clear — the heat from the base of the skillet will be such that the base of your pie will caramelize and form another mini crust of fats and sugars from the filling.

Cobbler

Photo: The New York Times

I don’t trust people who don’t like cobbler. It’s basically a pie shortcut where you get to skip all the fuss of getting the perfect bottom and top in favor of throwing a bunch of delicious things together and baking them for half an hour. The even, consistent heating of the skillet does wonders on the crust, too.

Hashbrowns

Photo: Budget Bytes

You may start noticing a theme here — cast-iron skillets are the kings of breakfast. If you make yourself or your loved ones hashbrowns in a non-stick skillet you are doing a disservice to both the potatoes wasted and your loved ones — they’ll get crispier in cast iron and cook through just as easily. Just make sure to squeeze out as much water as you can before throwing them in.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Photo: Taste Of The South

You thought we were done with pies? Chicken pot pie is a fall and cast-iron skillet staple. You could make your own crust, but store-bought puff pastry works plenty well for a weekday meal.

Whole Roasted Chicken

Photo: Taste Of The South

Preheat the skillet while you’re prepping the bird. Once its ready to go, place the seasoned and oiled chicken in the hot skillet and slide into the oven. This recipe doesn’t mention it, but turning the chicken once with about a third of the cook time remaining isn’t a bad idea. This gives you crispy skin on two sides, and more bird to render fat from for a gravy later.

Okra Tomatoes

Photo: Smithey Ironware

Though you’ll see it battered and deep-fried more often, okra can be just as good in its natural state. The key to this dish, as is the key to any dish that aims to char veggies without overcooking them, is to put them in the skillet only after it’s smoking hot. As noted in the recipe, toss the veggie combo in oil before dropping in the pan — this method creates more even maillard reactions and prevents splashing and flare ups.

Corn Tortillas

Photo: Lodge

While a comal is the classic vehicle to homemade tortilla ascendence, none of us have one of those. A big skillet serves the same purpose with a bit less square-footage to work with. Remember to avoid using metal kitchen tools to flip if at all possible (we recommend using GIR’s excellent silicone flipper or your fingers, as there’s very little oil splash associated with tortilla making)

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Red Snapper

Photo: Garden And Gun

Cast-iron skillet recipes aren’t always elegant or light — this one is both. From a now defunct Savannah, Georgia restaurant comes an easy-to-follow whole roasted fish recipe that shows off all the best parts of cast-iron cooking.

Mac and Cheese

Photo: Epicurious

The only thing better than serving macaroni and cheese on the table still in its piping hot skillet is serving four of them, each in its own mini skillet. Here’s to a crustier, more caramelized, better presenting and generally superior mac and cheese.

Grilled Cheese

Photo: Martha Stewart

The art of grilled cheese is understanding the role of the chosen cooking surface, and few are as adept at quick crustiness and fat displacement than the cast-iron skillet. This is a dish to avoid getting the skillet too hot, as the butter can easily go up in smoke.

Apple Pie

Photo: America’s Test Kitchen

Before replicating this recipe, watch Cook’s Illustrated’s brief master class on the basics of cast iron pie prep. Then, go forth and prepare a cinnamon-ridden, buttery, sweet and altogether wonderful apple pie.

Claufoutis

Photo: Epicurious

Imagine flan, then imagine a French person making it. That’s clautoutis (sometimes spelled “clafouti”). And while that alone should be enticing enough, the real strength is its status as a pre-prepared, post-brunch desert. This is to say, after serving guests or family with whatever combination of green, protein, potato and what have you, you hit them with a delicate custard that’s just as good the next day.

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